Obstacles to Peace: re-framing the Israeli Palestinian conflict (1) is the title of Jeff Halper’s analysis of the current situation. Halper described how Israel’s house demolition policies represented a concrete expression of Israel’s declared policy of “judaizing” the country. More than 52,000 Palestinian homes in villages, towns and urban neighbourhoods have been destroyed since 1948 and more than 200 settlements have been have been constructed in the West Bank, at least four the size of a small city, to create ‘facts on the ground.’ Over 800,000 Palestinians have been detained by Israel since 1967, including 10,000 women and 8,000 children.
Halper describes the carving up of the Occupied Territories into disconnected and impoverished enclaves as ‘warehousing’ Palestinians’ to create a static situation of virtual imprisonment emptied of all political content and resolution. Israel now maintains control of the Occupied Territories, of Judea and Samaria and has, ipso facto, established a ‘Greater Israel’ from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River. To continue to talk of a ‘two state’ solution ignores this reality and against this reality Halper asks what should our strategy be? He proposes a pro-active, international campaign of advocacy involving three elements:
- a clear and compelling reframing of the conflict
- the mobilization of civil society forces, including close monitoring of international peace efforts and an assertive targeting of power
- a focussed and coordinated campaign of advocacy.
Drawing from the experience of South Africa and the ANC’s envisioning a new non-racial/multi- racial South Africa which, Halper reminded us, contributed towards a bloodless transition to democracy, Halper advocates a Palestinian/Israeli Freedom Charter which would re-frame the Palestinian struggle as one for civic, political and human rights. This would begin to obviate Israel’s presentation of itself as a victim fighting for its existence and the Land of Israel exclusively the preserve of Jewish people.
Sari Nusseibeh, a professor of philosophy and president of the Al-Quds University in Jerusalem and until December 2002 a representative of the Palestinian National Authority in Jerusalem in his small book, What is a Palestinian State Worth? asks the same question. Can a devout Jew be a devout Jew and drop the belief in the rebuilding of the Temple. Can a devout Muslim be a devout Muslim and drop the belief in the sacredness of the Rock? Can one right (the right of return) be given up for another (the right to live in peace)? Can one claim Palestinian identity and still be an Israeli citizen? What is a Palestinian state worth? Will the social media generation be prepared to dispense with a flag and the trappings of statehood in favour of full civic and political rights?
For over sixty years, the Israeli–Palestinian conflict has been subjected to many solutions and offered many answers by diverse parties. What Is a Palestinian State Worth? poses questions about the history, meaning, future, and resolution of the Israel/Palestine conflict.
This question was explored by Salma Karmi-a-Ayyoub, a criminal barrister and consultant for the human rights organisation Al Haq, who advocated campaigning on the basis of international and human rights law. By highlighting the myriad laws which Israel relies on to entangle Palestinians in an ever widening web of restriction, Israel can be made accountable for its illegal occupation and not allowed to continue to hide behind the shield of victimhood and security. We were urged to use the law as a lobbying tool.
Khalil Al-Amour, an active member of the Al-Sira Community Council and a member of the Regional Council for the Unrecognized Bedouin Villages of the Negev and since 2009 a secretariat member of the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civic Equality at the UN, described the continuing dispossession of the Bedouin and the gathering momentum of the campaign to expose this and draw down support for Bedouin communities who are astounding witnesses of remaining ‘sumud’ in the face of deepening repression and loss.
Around 70 people attended the conference and what struck me most was how serious and committed they were. I would conjecture that a majority are active campaigners and that we fully understood that our priority must be to pick up Halper’s call for a pro-active international campaign which he suggested could be formulated into a neat slogan: BDS4BDS: Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions for a
Bi-National Democratic State.